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How to find the best restaurant waitlist app

Physically waiting in line at a restaurant is becoming a thing of the past. Waitlist apps make it easy for diners to use their mobile devices to put their name on the list for a table before they’ve even arrived, so they can wait their turn at home, in their car, or while window shopping down the street and get a text message when their table’s ready—no pagers required.

Woman joining a restaurant waitlist from her phone
Photo by Alejandro Sotillet

With social distancing requirements due to COVID-19, the concept of an electronic waitlist is a more appealing customer experience than ever before.  

Waitlist apps help restaurants streamline table management, too. The right app can take away the stress of waitlist management and paging guests so that your staff can focus on what they do best: providing a great experience to guests dining in the restaurant. 

If you’re in the market for a waitlist management app, do your research and make sure you select an app that’s a great fit for your restaurant. Our guide to finding the right waitlist app for your restaurant is a good resource to help with your due diligence. Here’s a quick overview of the guide’s five questions to ask yourself to help you make your selection.

How easy and intuitive is the app to use?

  • Request a live demo of the apps you’re considering, and ask someone who typically deals with walk-ins—one of your managers or hosts—to participate.
  • Learn about the onboarding process: You want to ensure that everyone will get proper training in how to use the app.
  • For a diner’s perspective, try it out yourself at a restaurant that’s already using the waitlist app.

Can I get support when I need it?

  • Ask about documentation, support, and training that’s available after you’re up and running.
  • Can your staff reach a live person quickly? 
  • Is 24/7 support offered with the list price? 

Will the app be around in a year? Will it adapt as my restaurant grows and changes?

  • Restaurant management software is a long-term investment and not something you want to change every year. Think about your future plans and growth goals during your evaluation.
  • Ask about the company’s roadmap for the app. Are you confident that you can run your restaurant on this app for the next five years?
  • Go with a company that’s in it for the long haul and is committed to supporting your growth.

What waitlist capabilities are most important for my restaurant?

Consider the unique needs of your restaurant and the perspectives of your diners and your staff in order to determine what’s critical and what’s a nice-to-have. Ask yourself how important these  elements are: 

For your host/manager: 

  • Floor plan management and customization
  • Wait time/queue management
  • Guest management and timing
  • Self-service capabilities—is there an iPad kiosk option?
  • Analytics

For diners: 

  • Connecting with new and returning customers
  • Mobile app accessibility—does it work equally well on Android and iPhone devices?
  • Communication functionality—does it support SMS texting?
  • User experience—is it easy to use? Does it show real-time updates?
  • Social media sharing

Is the pricing all-inclusive or are there hidden costs?

  • Always read the fine print to see what’s included in an app’s list price and to see if there may be any hidden costs and fees.
  • Understand what’s included in your package, what’s additional, whether your rate can fluctuate, and what fees are charged if you add additional services later. 

For more comprehensive information on choosing a waitlist app, check out our ebook: “How to Find the Right Waitlist App for Your Restaurant.”